New Year’s resolutions. I don’t know, I find the term overused to the point of mutilation these days. Often more referenced as a mockery than any serious act of commitment, my upper lip unwittingly snarls at the mere mention of it. And it’s not that I haven’t tried! Last year I sat myself down and expressed my desires for the approaching year—how I wanted to live better, do better and ultimately be better. I was actually a little nervous to go back and read it. Both because I’m always nervous to go back and read my writing for fear that I sound like an arrogant a-hole, but mostly because I was concerned I had been a total failure. Despite my hesitation, I dug it up and was actually pleasantly surprised. I don’t think I sound too arrogant, and I’ve made progress in all the areas I wrote about. Sure, there have been failures, but I’ve been far more consistent in my commitments, focused on building better relationships and have even developed a practice of doing things I’m not amazing at, and enjoying it even! Last year I performed a song onstage, something I never thought I could do. And I even read a whole chapter book! (Kidding, sorta.) So I actually feel pretty good about the little wins, as well as some other breakthroughs I’ve had throughout out the year. Still, the whole notion of making “resolutions” at New Year’s launches me into depressed teenager mode, shrugging at the dinner table when asked about my day. “I dunno.” I went to one of my favorite yoga studios for a special two-hour class today. I figured it would be a good way to start the year—to connect, reflect, feel strong and push myself. I love this particular teacher too, she has a way of dropping pearls of ancient wisdom mixed with her own experiences in the most humble and accessible way. However, as you can imagine with any yoga class that adds spiritual and philosophical teachings to the physical practice, it was only a matter of time before “New Year’s resolutions” came into play. In my head I was like, “nooo, you can’t make me.” But I’m also the type of person who, when I engage in something, I want to do it full on. My mantra is typically to save the judging for later and just go with it; which, upon reflection, has lent itself to some pretty interesting stories, but that’s another day. So I reluctantly picked an “intention” for the new year, came up with some random words that seemed sufficient for the occasion. I was even feeling a little self-righteous about my active participation until she suddenly announced what we were going to do next: “partner work.” *Gasp* And I was doing so well. To me, this is akin to attending a poetry reading and being told you have to get onstage. Like, I didn’t sign up for this.
I’m not even sure what’s at the root of my resistance to it, but I’m sure it’s mostly to do with social anxieties and the awkwardness of touching someone’s sweaty yoga body as they put themselves in vulnerable positions, in your face. Usually, I’m scanning the room in my head for my most preferable candidate, all the while judging myself for being so superficial. But this time we were automatically partnered with the person across from us. For me, this meant a shaggy haired middle-aged man with a sort of stoner vibe and an oddly endearing boyish awkwardness. I tried to make eye contact with him to show him I was totally cool with it, but he never looked at me, at least not when I was looking. So it came time for us to touch and stretch each other and I stubbornly forced myself to embrace the experience. And that’s when it hit me: none of the shit that’s going on in my head is actually happening! I let go of my insecurities, squeezed his sweaty palm, breathed deeply and embraced him affectionately as if we were old friends. It felt great! Not only did I “get through” the thing I don’t like, I actually learned to enjoy it, maybe even love it little. I love doing partner work! Haha. This is a revelation, because at the end of the day, it’s just better to love shit.
So I’ve discovered my New Year’s resolution. As with most things in my life, not without great resistance, but I come by it honestly. My resolution this year is to embrace the things I fear and learn to love them. It’s not enough just to grit your teeth and get it over with. You need to open yourself and find a way to love what frightens you, make peace with it, invite it into your home, serve it tea, give it a massage, you get the idea. Only then can it seize to have any power. I think sometimes we aren’t even aware of what scares us because we’ve developed such incredible strategies to avoid the discomfort. Whether it’s certain types of people, environments, activities, abilities, we have lists of excuses to keep us safe in our comfort zone and give our fears the nourishment to smother our experience of love, and of life. Kinda makes me want to take my inner teenager out for pizza, aaaw.
I recently watched the film Another Earth. It’s a spectacular film and I highly recommend it, but there’s one particular scene that really stood out for me. The main character tells a story about a Russian cosmonaut who... well, you should watch it. It demonstrates what I’m trying to express quite beautifully. (Also, the dude kinda looks like the guy from yoga. Weird!) Find what you resist, and learn to love it. Become friends with your fears and you will gain ultimate freedom. Happy New Year friends!